YaY! Good for you for being on top of things :)
Even without a filter, plants never clouded up the water in my 3G's or bigger.
They do give off debris when first put in, but it settled down. So when you first put any in,
you'll go, "omg the water is filthy!".... Don't worry, let it settle, and you can suck the debris
On the 3Gs I do 50% changes 2x a week, that's just what works for me,
I found mine get too stressed with removing all the old water & I don't wash the gravel.
So you remove your fishy (I found a black non see through cup is best for less stress, just suck
him into it), then use your hand to kick up the gravel debris, and either dump it in the sink,
or get some tubing to siphon it out by sucking one end till you see the water halfway down the tube into a bucket...I've accidently got water in my mouth, lol, it takes some practice.
I have a gravel battery operated vac & honestly the siphon method is faster.
I know you didn't ask this, but I think those water conditioner tablets are more expensive than PRIME water conditioner over all...Prime is very concentrated & will
last you forever, and works instantly.
I've never seen live plants at the walmarts by me..or at petco...Petsmart I have, but
not Java Fern/Moss. They might order it for you though! I got my plants at a small pet shop & they are usually sold out bc they are the only place selling them. I'd send you some of mine but I'm not exactly sure how to ship them! I always heard, the faster the plant grows, the better it is at keeping ammonia down.